JiJUE â€“ When I first heard the album title, the first thing that came to mind was martial arts (lame, but true). I heard about it when I was told that Mag44 would be launching his debut album on the 28th of April a few weeks ago when I arrived in my home town (Lusaka, Zambia stand uuup!). I haven’t been to many concerts that include Zambian artists so I was excited to see him perform. My niece hooked me up with tickets and ‘whoop-whoop!’ was the chant. ‘Jijue’, pronounced ‘jee-joo-weh’ means ‘know yourself’ in Swahili (many thanks to Team Educate Me). Before the music, I knew Mag44 as a spoken word poet. I’d been to a poetry session which featured him over a year ago and after that I was sold. I’ve been a fan of his work since then. He raps primarily in Bemba and Nyanja (which are both Zambian languages) and English. It also helps that Nyanja is closely related to Chewa which is spoken in Malawi. The album is produced entirely by Mag44 under Lota House. He’s been with them for about a year and a half now and produces most of the music that comes out of there.
The Intro to the 17 track album features female vocalist, Seya, who in my books is one of the most talented people he could have picked to open the album with. It also features Chord14, a group of gents who are most popular for their acapella acrobatics. Both Seya and Chord14 performed as part of the troop of Zambian artists who supported Mag44 at the launch and they set the open-air house on fire. Chuckles. The intro is basically Mag44‘s existentialist musings about identity and what that means for himself, particularly on a spiritual level. So the bulk of the album is unequivocally premised on his journey as a Christian.
Singles off the album include Vichani, Pwililika, Shipikisha Club and I beat which features Zambia‘s boxing champ Esther Phiri. Yes, THE Esther Phiri, Zambia’s prized light-welterweight boxing champion. Granted, her main line on the hook is â€œme I beatâ€ but….well….it’s Esther Phiri. The instrumental on this is what makes it a hype-man-in-your head track. I would have really like to see the champ feature in the video considering she’s the one who drew a lot of attention to the track. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Here it is:
Of the other singles, my favorite one is Vichani which features fellow Zambian artists Pompi and Kenny Roc who produced this video as well as the one above under production company GroundXero. This track won me over the first time I heard it. This is the same track that sent people into a frenzy at the launch. People were on it word-for-word and their feet only hit the ground an average of thirteen times – they jumped that high. I think that was the point at which a tube of glue fell out of my pocket. That’s a story for another day. Here’s the Vichani video. We covered this one a while ago:
The tracks that I gravitate to most on the album are the more high tempo ones and one or two with a reggae influence. Many of the others are slow-paced and take on ‘church service vibe’ because of the stylistic choices made on the vocals. They’re not choral but they are soulful (for lack of a better term). There are a few tracks for both hopeful and hopeless romantics and the one that drew the most laughs and ‘awwws’ from the crowd at the launch was Kabolala which means ‘Thief’. It’s basically about – you guessed it – one person stealing another person’s heart. That one I can listen to all day.
The album as a whole is kept solid by the fact that Mag44 is supported by a group of talented artists. All of whom are Zambian and those whose music I’m familiar with include Trinah, Tasha, Abel Chungu Musuka and Pompi. Abel and Pompi – both rapper/singers are also part of Lota House and recently launched their own studio albums. Pompi who is also head of Lota House performed alongside South Africa‘s Zahara in Lusaka on the 24th of May. This ‘African Night’ concert was organised in celebration of Africa Day, 25th May. Zahara was also supported by Zambian Jazz/Soul vocalist Scarlet who is a part of So’ Good Entertainment.
What I appreciate about JiJUE is that even though it’s heavy on the spirituality, it’s easy to find a few tracks that are accessible. This also came through at the launch so it didn’t kill us with monotony. There were very few glitches and these were as a result of one or two supporting acts who seemed a bit out-of-place but then unintended comic relief isn’t bad if you’re the one laughing. What was a huge relief is that there was an accompanying band and we didn’t have to deal with backing tracks the whole time. It was evident that the organizers were wide awake when planning the event. It started on time, it ended on time it was worth it. Also, as a true fan of Mag44 and of scrap-booking, on my way home I peeled one of the event posters off a bus stop shelter. I’ll hold onto this memorabilia for as long as I can but it was good to hear when we spoke to him, that Mag44 is keeping the momentum going:
“I am currently working on a house project, you will be hearing more about this soon. I will be traveling to a few countries later this year. [....] that is most definitely in the pipeline, I believe Africa has a lot of talent and I would love to collaborate with artists from other countries.”
Already, he traveled to Nairobi, where he was invited to perform at the Groove Awards , Kenya‘s biggest gospel music award ceremony which was held on the 1st of June. I’m keen to hear what projects he’ll be working on over the next few months.
Other tracks from JiJUE to be amped about are Smile and Wave and Takwaba